Ever since Disney and Lucasfilm unveiled the new BB-8 droid during the Star Wars Celebration annual convention last week, fans of George Lucas' epic space saga have been clamoring to get their hands on it, with at least one person even creating a rough version of the bot.
It looks like you won't have to become a hardware engineer overnight and build your own BB-8 from scratch though, as Sphero sort of confirmed it is making an iPhone-controlled version of the bot. It's been rumoured since last week that Disney teamed up with Sphero, but now a Sphero page with a BB-8 silhouette has gone live, along with a sign up form and the teaser: "This is the droid you're looking for."
Several reports have also revealed how Robert A. Iger, chief executive officer of the Walt Disney Company, was personally involved in developing the new toy. We've therefore gathered all the details you want to know about Sphero BB-8, but in case you're still interested in making a your own real-life version, we've provided instructions on how to do that as well.
What is BB-8?
BB-8 is a new droid set to star in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the seventh installment in the Star Wars series (the film will premiere in theaters in December). It's important to note that BB-8's head appears to float over its rolling body and can move across the entire surface of its body. The New York Times even labelled the droid as a "beeping, free-rolling, orange and white ball with a little half-sphere hat".
The world got its first look at BB-8 during the Star Wars Celebration annual fan convention in April 2015. It unveiled shortly before Disney, which bought Lucasfilm for $4.05 billion in 2012, released the second trailer for The Force Awakens, which you can read all about here.
Why did Disney team up with Sphero?
Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy revealed during an interview with Fortune last week that Colorado-based Sphero - which describes itself as a “connected play company, fusing digital and physical play by creating toys and robots that you control with a smart device" - was selected as part of Disney’s accelerator program last year, along with nine other companies.
The program gives upward of $120,000 in investment capital and matches each startup with a mentor from within Disney’s executive ranks, and Sphero's mentor just so happened to be Iger. At the time, the chief executive was playing with a $129 Sphero ball, while also trying to figure out how to bring the new Star Wars droid BB-8 to toy shelves and Disney parks, according to The New York Times.
Iger said he was impressed by Sphero's quality and user interface, especially since the official BB-8 prop in the new Star Wars film was built on rollers and controlled by a puppeteer, so he asked his Sphero mentees to develop a BB-8 prototype for Disney. They designed an iPhone-controlled BB-8 toy about the size of an Apple - and Iger sent that concept straight to Disney’s consumer products division.
Since the tease an image purporting to be the final design has appeared on the internet.
How does Sphero's BB-8 work?
Paul Berberian, Sphero’s chief, told The New York Times that everyone is asking him how the head of BB-8 can possibly stay in place as the ball rolls beneath it and whether it relies on magnets, but he wouldn't get too specific for the paper.
He simply teased that consumers will have to wait to find out. The CEO did admit however that 80 steps are involved in the manufacturing process.
When will Sphero launch its BB-8 toy droid?
The new toy will reportedly be sold in Disney Stores and other retailers this holiday season. Disney has not revealed pricing, but it said a bigger BB-8 is expected to appear at Disney theme parks around the world. Sphero has a new BB-8 page in which you can sign up to learn more information about the toy when it's revealed.
Want to make your own BB-8?
You can build your own BB-8 for just $150 (about £100).
Designer Christian Poulsen, for instance, took a first-generation Sphero and transformed it into a functional BB-8. He cut the Sphero in half while avoiding the circuitry, then added a strong magnet to the inside, and made said head from scratch, which you can also do with foam or some other lightweight material.
Poulsen published a how-to guide with instructions on his Makezine page. It all looks a bit complicated honestly, but if you don't want to wait for Sphero to unveil its BB-8, you can go ahead and make your own today.
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